“You’re awake,” the girl says.
Dark green eyes peer out from beneath heavy eyelids. “How long have I been sleeping?” the dragon asks.
“About nine years,” she replies. “Maybe ten.”
The creature rouses itself to an upright position and attempts to flex its stiffened wings. “A whole decade?” It begins to recall some things—indiscernible conversations and events from a well of fragmented memories. “Was I awake, at any point, in these nine, maybe ten years?”
A wistful look crosses the girl’s face. A year or a hundred makes little difference to her in this dungeon cell, where time feels so immaterial.
“You awoke whenever I summoned you, but I’d put you back to sleep again,” she says. “Sometimes you’d fight to stay alert; other times you slept soundly.”
“Why’ve you summoned me again?”
“I never know if you’ll be brought back every single time. After so long, I got curious.”
She’s looking out of a pentagon-shaped window barred with iron grilles. The rest of the square-shaped cell is illumined by candle-lit sconces on rough stone walls. The entire place smells like stale wax.
Curious about what’s outside, the creature shuffles next to the girl to take a peek, but not before realizing the window has suddenly risen to a great height. Come to think of it, the girl herself appears to tower over the dragon, which only comes up to her ankles. “I’m … diminished,” it says. “How did this happen?”
She bends down and scoops it into her palms. “Relax, it’s only temporary.” There’s a hard edge to her otherwise girlish voice. “The more you slumber, the smaller you get. But the longer I keep you awake, the larger you’ll grow.”
“Well, then, never put me to sleep again!” the dragon demands.
“Impossible,” she shakes her head, “you become too mean when you’re big.”
“I won’t. I promise to be nice.”
“You’ve made similar promises in the past.”
“Have I? Well this time, it’s true!”
The girl remains resolute, however. “I’m sorry, that’s just how it is.”
“Fine, then, tell me how we ended up here,” the dragon persists. “Who’s holding us captive in this dreadful dungeon?”
“You and I both,” she says, with a sigh. “Nobody else.”
It snorts with incredulity. “If that were to be true—which I highly doubt—at least one of us will have the key.”
The girl looks bewildered. “You don’t get it, do you? There are no locks and there’s never been a key.”
As she releases it to the ground, the dragon throws its head back in laughter. “Who in the right mind would remain here if they could freely leave?”
The creature marches indignantly for the exit, stopping in front of a wooden door that’s held shut by an iron latch and pull ring beneath—both well beyond its reach.
“Do you need some help?” the girl offers. She strolls up from behind and slides the iron latch free. A final pull on the door ring is now all that stands between the dragon and freedom. “Shall I?”
The dragon has frozen. “No.”
“It’s easy. Only a little push.”
“NOOOOO!” it pleads, clinging to the hem of her long skirt in fear. Its dark green eyes have gone wide with panic.
“Why not?” she asks. “It’s so simple. I open the door, you leave.”
It hisses in anger. “Stop asking, you know why!”
“But I want you to tell me,” she commands, extricating the creature from her skirt fabric and setting it upon the window sill.
Its reply comes out in a hoarse whisper. “Because I don’t exist beyond these walls.”
The girl nods. “Do you want to go back to sleep?”
The dragon shuts its eyes in resignation. “Yes, please.”
[to be continued]